Wellesley College named Dr. Paula A. Johnson, a Harvard Medical School professor, as president, making her the first African American to ever head the school, the Boston Globe reports.
Johnson in July will officially replace H. Kim Bottomly, who announced in April that she would be stepping down after nine years of service.
Johnson, who will become the 14th president of the women’s liberal arts college, said that as its first African-American president, she feels she has a special duty toward the school, the Globe reports, promising to work to “strengthen and [deepen]” the college’s diversity, while also ensuring “that our residential experience is taking full advantage of that diversity, that our young women are really experiencing all the richness that that diversity brings on campus.”
“For someone who looks like me, a black woman, to become president of Wellesley College—it is so inspiring to me. She truly embodies black excellence,” Wellesley sophomore Gabrielle Taylor told the Globe Thursday.
Johnson also signaled the importance of the university in preparing students to be well-equipped for the expanding leadership opportunities for women and for addressing the continuing disparities in women’s employment and health care options, the Globe reports.
“Wellesley could not be more relevant today in terms of its role in providing an outstanding liberal arts education, which we know is so critical to developing the next generation and to the future of our world,” she said.
Johnson, 54, is a professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and a physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. She is also the chief of the Division of Women’s Health at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and is founder and executive director of the Brigham and Women’s Mary Horrigan Connors Center for Women’s Health & Gender Biology.
Johnson was unanimously recommended by a committee of students, alumnae, trustees, faculty and staff.
“Even among a superb group of candidates, Dr. Johnson stood out through her record as a scholar and leader, together with her passion for women’s advancement, education, and well-being, the energy and insights she conveyed in our discussions, and her enthusiasm for Wellesley,” college trustee and chairwoman of the search committee Debora de Hoyos acknowledged in a statement, according to the Globe.
Read more at the Boston Globe.